Americans generally aren’t enthusiastic about their financial state, but relatively speaking, things are looking up.
In January 2014, only 45% of Americans responded to a Gallup poll saying they feel “pretty good” about the amount of money they have to spend, but this January, 49% of respondents said so. It may not seem all that exciting that fewer than half of Americans feel “pretty good” about their disposable income, but money is one of those things that has most people stressed, confused and uncertain, so seeing a slight increase in positive sentiment is worth acknowledging.
The Gallup poll showed improvement in a different but closely related area: Gallup asks Americans if they are feeling better about their financial situation, and 50% said yes last month, up from 43% in January 2014. This sunnier disposition emerged among all income groups, with those making less than $24,000 a year reporting the greatest gain, up 6 percentage points, to 38% saying they feel better about their financial situation. On the other hand, the low-income group was the only one to have a smaller share of people say they felt good about the amount of money they had the spend — only 29% said yes, down a percentage point from January 2014.
This follows a general trend of improving consumer sentiment. In January, Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index popped into positive territory for the first time since it started tracking it in 2008. The index is an average of consumers feelings about current economic conditions and their thoughts on the economic outlook. The range is -100 (everyone thinks everything is bad) to +100 (everyone thinks everything is great). In January, the index averaged +3, up from -15.5 in January 2014.
At the same time, the average credit score has been going up, and credit is opening up to consumers who were shut out in the wake of the economic collapse starting in 2008. Given this growth in opportunity and optimism, it’s important consumers stay focused on continuing to improve their finances — like tracking your credit score, which you can do for free on Credit.com — and save for the future, because savings is crucial to financial stability and avoiding debt.
Weigh in: Are your finances better off now than you were a year ago? What’s been the game changer for you? Let us know in the comments below.
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